Why are the Bears playing in London?

The Bears could meet the Raiders at their Coliseum or here at home in Soldier Field. So why are the two teams meeting up overseas for the game?

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Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen #29 runs onto the field before the Bears face off against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen #29 runs onto the field before the Bears face off against the Minnesota Vikings at Soldier Field, Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Chicago Bears are rolling deep with a 208-person travel party to face off against the Oakland Raiders in London this Sunday, hosted by the Raiders.

The Bears could meet the Raiders at their Coliseum or here at home in Soldier Field. So why are the two teams meeting up overseas for the game?

The international Bears vs. Raiders game marks the 25th regular-season game played outside of the U.S. and Chicago’s first time back since their 24-18 victory over Tampa Bay in 2011.

During the 2011 game, Matt Forte rushed for 145 yards and scored on a 32-yard run in what many consider the highlight of his career. On defense, the Bears picked off Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman four times, with defensive back D.J. Moore sealing the win with an interception at the Bears 25-yard line with 26 seconds remaining.

The tradition of international exhibition game series began with the American Bowl in 1986, a series of preseason games started as a way to promote the NFL outside of the U.S. The annual games were played the same weekend as the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game until 2005.

Post-American Bowl, the series evolved into the NFL International Series, which was so called through 2016. This series marked the international tradition’s first shift into regular-season games, until it was split into two sub-series in 2017; the NFL London Games and NFL Mexico Game.

The National Football League announced the 2019 London Games in January, starting with Sunday’s inaugural match between the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened in April.

For the NFL, these international exhibition games help the league maintain a presence in Europe, which could someday lead to a team there — perhaps by 2022, theorizes Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated.

For the Bears, they will try to take the lead in the all-time series against the Raiders. The series is tied 7-7. The teams meet Sunday for the first time since October 2015, when Chicago won 22-20.

Since the inception of these games, Chicago has previously played in London twice; once when they won 24-10 in a 1986 preseason American Bowl game against the Dallas Cowboys at Wembley Stadium, and again in 2011, during an International Series regular-season game against Tampa Bay.

This year’s l game begins at noon CT.

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